CDL Test

In order to qualify for a truck driver job, a person will have to pass the Commercial Driver's License test, or CDL test, which is administered by each state's department of motor vehicles. Anyone who will be driving a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, will carry 15 or more people or will transport hazardous materials requiring a hazmat placardmust obtain a Commercial Driver's License. The CDL test is given in two parts: a computerized/written part and a hands-on/real-world part.

The first hurdle is to pass the written portion of the exam. This portion covers all aspects of operating a commercial vehicle safely, and has questions about inspecting the vehicle for safety, interacting with other drivers, handling hazardous weather conditions and properly transporting cargo or passengers. Beyond the general CDL test, there are specialty tests drivers can take that allow them additional permissions to drive certain vehicles. An example of this is the air brakes test, which is often included with the general CDL exam.

If a driver achieves a score of 80% or higher on the written portion of the CDL test, they can move on to the skills section. The driver needs to provide the vehicle used during this part of the exam. The skills section is divided into three parts: the Pre-Trip Inspection, the Off Road Skills and the On Road Skills.

The pre-trip inspection involves doing a walk-around of the vehicle, pointing out to a CDL testing examiner which parts of the vehicle to examine for safety before driving it and why. Once the driver has proven they can accurately judge when a vehicle is safe to drive, they move to the off road skills test.

The off road skills test occurs in an area away from traffic. Routes and lanes will be marked off with cones or something similar. The driver will be asked to move the vehicle forward, to stop at a designated line, to back the vehicle up straight and to back up on an angle. This part of the exam gauges the driver's ability to handle the vehicle.

The last section of the CDL test is the on road skills section. In this portion of the exam, the driver travels a predetermined route while the examiner scores how well they handle different traffic situations. The driver is likely to encounter intersections, multi-lane roads, right and left curves, railroad crossings and pedestrians. All three sections of the skills portion of the test have to be passed in order to be granted a CDL.

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Last Updated: 04/25/2014

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